by Lowell Randel /SVP, Government and Legal Affairs for Global Cold Chain Alliance
The sanitary transportation of food has become a focal point for policymakers and the food industry. Regulators at the state and federal level are increasing their scrutiny and enforcement of regulations aimed at protecting the safety of food being transported through the supply chain.
The Food Safety Modernization Act, administered by the Food and Drug Administration includes a rule titled Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food. The goal of the STF is to prevent transportation practices that create food safety risks. These could include failure to properly refrigerate food, inadequate cleaning of vehicles between loads and not properly protecting food.
The STF rule, which took effect on June 6, 2016, established requirements for shippers, loaders, rail or motor carriers and receivers involved in transporting human and animal food.
While enforcement of the provisions has ramped up slowly, the FDA has recently indicated it plans to incorporate STF into broad FSMA inspections in the future.
The STF regulation touches all aspects of the cold chain and represents an important opportunity for third-party logistics companies to work with their partners across the supply chain to ensure food safety and quality.
The rule emphasizes the role of industry best practices in achieving regulatory compliance. In response to the STF rule, the Global Cold Chain Alliance, led by its core partner the International Refrigerated Transportation Association, developed a Refrigerated Transportation Best Practices Guide.
The guide is available for free to the food industry. GCCA members and non-members alike can download the guide at www.gcca.org/resources/transportation-guide. It includes specific industry best practices to help carriers, shippers, loaders and receivers understand their regulatory responsibilities, as well as the steps they can take to achieve compliance.
The guide covers the full spectrum of activities related to the sanitary transportation of food including: cleaning; maintenance; vehicle loading and unloading; maintaining proper temperature control; and operation of vehicles and transportation equipment.
Also included in the guide is a sanitary transportation of food compliance matrix, which helps companies identify specific compliance requirements included in the STF rule, the respective roles of shippers, loaders, carriers and receivers. In addition, there also is a section of the guide that includes advice on how to comply.
The key to success is good communication across the supply chain. It is strongly encouraged that food companies work together to understand the respective roles and expectations for maintaining sanitary operations.
Along with the guide, GCCA has developed a training program for drivers to become compliant with the STF rule. This program meets regulatory requirements for driver training and can also be found on the alliance’s website.
Taking best practices to next level through certification
As the food industry moved to adopt best practices for the sanitary transportation of food, GCCA identified the need for a certification program to recognize those companies that have successfully implemented sanitary practices.
The Certified Cold Carrier Program (gcca.org/certifiedcoldcarrier) was launched in 2019 to recognize asset-based carrier organizations for their commitment to sanitary and safe transportation of perishable products.
The certification program provides independent, third-party assurance that asset-based carrier companies are aligned with industry-prescribed best practices for the safe and sanitary transport of food.
The certification is based on the Best Practices Guide and helps participants:
- Instill confidence with customers – certification by an industry-based third-party conveys impartial judgment based on a transparent standard.
- Demonstrate commitment to sanitary transport of food.
- Differentiate companies from their competitors.
- Show dedication to furthering the transportation and supply chain industries.
The FDA and others have recognized GCCA for its efforts as a leader on the issue. In July 2020, the FDA asked GCCA to participate in a session on the topic during the Institute of Food Technologists SHIFT20 annual conference.
GCCA will continue to develop and promote resources in support of the sanitary transportation of food. It encourages cold chain companies and their partners across the food supply chain to work together, using industry best practices, to ensure the safety and quality of perishable products.